Lingvistkredsens årsmøde med foredrag ved Nigel Vincent (Manchester University): Functionalism and formalism: the conversation continues – Københavns Universitet

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Lingvistkredsens årsmøde med foredrag ved Nigel Vincent (Manchester University): Functionalism and formalism: the conversation continues

Lingvistkredsen afholder årsmøde med valg. Efterfølgende er der foredrag ved Nigel Vincent.

Nigel Vincent er professor emeritus i almen og romansk lingvistik ved Manchester Universitet. Han er bedst kendt for sin forskning i morfologi, syntaks og historisk lingvistik med fokus på romanske sprog. Bl.a. mange andre tillidsposter blev han valgt som Fellow ved The British Academy i 2006 og har siden da tjent akademiet som Vice-President for Research and HE Policy. Indtil 2011 besad han The Mont Follick Chair of Comparative Philology i The School of Languages, Linguistics & Cultures ved Manchester Universitet.


Functionalism and formalism: the conversation continues

Newmeyer’s (1998) book entitled Language Form and Language Function opens with an imaginary conversation between two doctoral students, one trained in the Chomskyan tradition of formal syntax and one whose background lies in functional-typological methods. Part of his motivation in writing the book was his belief that there was right on both sides and that the different schools of thought needed to talk to each other. At the same time Newmeyer himself is not a neutral arbiter of such debates but is committed to the essential correctness of the innatist argument for a formal, in the sense of syntactically definable, core to language. And in this respect, his views have not changed (see for example Newmeyer 2017). In this later paper he also argues that structures that recur across languages are to be attributed to evolution rather than to the mechanisms of historical change.

In my talk I will follow Newmeyer in arguing that functionalist and formalist approaches are not incompatible and that exponents of both types of approach need to engage with (and therefore read!) each other. I differ from him in arguing against a ‘syntactico-centric’ view of natural language structure and in favour of diachrony as the source of patterns of cross-linguistic similarity and difference. My evidential base will consist in a comparative analysis of the development of the systems of marking finite and non-finite complementation in the Romance and Germanic languages.

Newmeyer, Frederick J. 1998. Language Form and Language Function. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Newmeyer, Frederick J. 2017. Form and function in the evolution of grammar. Cognitive Science 41: 259-276